Is Curcumin a Universal Cancer Treatment?

By June 28, 2023 Health

We came across the following article on the website The Expose, as well as an affiliated Telegram group with over 36,000 subscribers:

The article contains a short introduction that claims that curcumin ‘appears to be universally useful for just about every type of cancer and has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer of any nutrient’, and that ‘it works synergistically with certain chemotherapy drugs, enhancing the elimination of cancer cells’.

The rest of the article is a republication of an older article from the website, which goes into further detail about the supposed anti-cancer properties of curcumin. It quotes a Dr. William LaValley who says that while ‘molecularly targeted anti-cancer treatment (is) widely practised in oncology today… what’s not widely practised is the use of the natural products for the molecularly targeted anticancer activity’.

LaValley says that he provides ‘natural products’ for his patients because ‘the evidence base suggests and supports the use of these treatment recommendations’.

Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by the turmeric plant. Turmeric is often used as an herbal supplement, cosmetics ingredient, food flavouring, or food colouring, and can be found in ground form in curry powder.

Curcumin supplements can be found for sale in Singapore in many popular pharmacies and other healthcare retail outlets and supermarkets such as Watson’s, Guardian, Raffles Health and FairPrice Online. A bottle of 60 tablets costs between about $25 and $50, and the benefits promoted include anti-inflammation, improved joint and skin health, and support for the liver, immune system and digestive system. The retailers did not list any benefits for curcumin in cancer treatment.

Stirring the Pot

When we investigated the claims regarding curcumin, we found that there were some indications that curcumin could be beneficial in managing cancer. One Greek study from 2021 found that curcumin ‘targets multiple signalling pathways involved in the initiation, development, and growth of tumours’, while an Iranian systematic review of medical publications in 2020 found that ‘curcumin reduces the side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy’ and some studies indicated that it ‘increased patient survival time and decreased tumour markers’ level’. It is also suggested to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could indirectly aid in the fight against cancer.

Even so, authorities are in agreement that as of yet, there is insufficient evidence for the effect of curcumin in humans. Most laboratory studies have been small-scale and conducted on animals. Many have also been financed by the nutraceutical industry, which lacks regulatory oversight and may seek to profit from positioning curcumin as a miracle cure. Clinical trials on humans remain in their early stages.

Beyond this, there are some characteristics of curcumin that may potentially pose health risks or reduce its efficacy as a medical substance. A Healthline article warns that consuming turmeric could increase the amount of stomach acid in the body and could lower blood sugar or cause blood-thinning in harmful ways. It may also cause kidney stones. The article also cites evidence that states turmeric ‘may interfere with chemotherapy drugs’, directly contradicting a claim in the Expose News article.

One study also emphasises that curcumin’s chemical structure as an ‘unstable, reactive, nonbioavailable (bioavailability refers to the rate at which the body can absorb a substance) compound’ makes it a poor drug candidate, and that ‘no double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial of curcumin has been successful’.

Unhealthy Recommendations

When we looked up Expose News, we found that it had an extensive track record of publishing conspiracy theories and pushing pseudoscience. Formerly known as the The Daily Expose, the UK-based site founded in 2020 originally published Covid-19 theories and anti-vaccination news. It also does not disclose any information regarding its ownership.

The republished content similarly relies on sources with poor credibility. is an alternative medicine website that advocates unproven health remedies such as homeopathy and promotes anti-vaccine sentiments. The owner, Joseph Michael Mercola, markets controversial dietary supplements and medical devices through the site.

Similarly, LaValley, the physician quoted by Mercola, offers ‘natural health product supplements’ and ‘re-purposed pharmaceuticals’ in addition to conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy to his patients with cancer.

While curcumin may display some positive effects in some studies, there is a long way to go before the compound can be considered to be an effective treatment for cancer. The sources in the articles have a history of publishing health-based conspiracy theories or profit off the demand for alternative medicines, and cannot be considered credible voices on the issue.

It is therefore false that curcumin is a universal cancer treatment. The efficacy of curcumin as a cancer treatment remains a matter of contention among the scientific community. The research into curcumin remains in its early stages and there is some evidence that it may even hinder conventional treatment.

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